BJP & Cong meet President on U

pti

BJP & Cong meet President on U'khand crisis, both confident about numbers

Akash Bisht @akashbisht

The meetings

  • Delegations from the BJP and the Congress met President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday regarding the political crisis in Uttarakhand
  • While the BJP group asked him to dismiss the Harish Rawat govt, the Congress alleged the BJP was holding its MLAs captive

The twist

  • Under the anti-defection law, a breakaway group can only be recognised if it has one-third of a party's MLAs in the state
  • If the Speaker disqualifies the nine rebel Cong MLAs, CM Harish Rawat will have the numbers to prove his majority

More in the story

  • The BJP's allegation that the Speaker is in cahoots with CM Rawat - is it true?
  • Congress expels two leaders for anti-party activities - who and why?

The suspense over whether Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat will be able to prove his majority in the Assembly on 28 March still remains.

While the BJP, with the support of nine rebel Congress MLAs, claims to have a majority in the house, Rawat too is confident that he has the magic figure needed to continue as CM.

On Monday, a delegation of BJP leaders met President Pranab Mukherjee, and asked him to dismiss the Congress government. Interestingly, the nine rebel leaders were not part of the delegation.

Also read - Harish Rawat's U'khand govt set to collapse, 9 Cong MLAs turn dissident

In response, a senior delegation of Congress leaders including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel, Ambika Soni, AK Antony, Motilal Vora and Kapil Sibal met the President to apprise him about the crisis.

Speaking to media after the meeting, Azad said: "The BJP, with assistance from the Central government, is trying to topple democratically-elected governments of the Congress party."

Citing the example of Arunachal Pradesh, where Congress rebels combined with the BJP to bring down the Nabam Tuki government, Azad said the BJP was trying to repeat the same in Uttarakhand.

Accusing BJP for forcibly taking rebel Congress legislators to the Governor's house, Azad said: "Our MLAs are being held captive by BJP, which is forcing them to make statements."

Azad also claimed that the Central government was forcing the Governor to bring forward the Assembly session, to let the Chief Minister prove majority in the house. He said the Congress leadership was worried about the safety of the legislators.

Also read - Uttarakhand crisis: Congress expels Vijay Bahuguna's son Saket for 6 years

Anti-defection law

The reason for the state Congress leadership's confidence could emanate from the fact that these nine MLAs could be suspended under the anti-defection law by Assembly Speaker GS Kunjwal. If that happens, the strength of the house would come down to 61, which could help the Congress prove its majority on the floor of the house.

Without these nine, the party enjoys support of three independents, one Uttarakhand Kranti Dal and one BSP member, taking its tally to 33. If the dissidents are indeed disqualified, the Congress would need just 31 legislators to prove its majority.

According to the anti-defection law, only if one-third or more members of a party break away can they be recognised as a separate group. Nine out of 36 Congress MLAs don't meet that criterion.

Rebel MLAs may get disqualified under the Anti-Defection Law, bringing the house strength down to 61

On Saturday, the Speaker had issued a notice under anti-defection law to the rebels, who have joined hands with the BJP to oust the government. These Congress rebels have time till 26 March to give an explanation, otherwise the possibility of their expulsion from the Assembly is quite likely.

However, the BJP leadership has accused the Speaker of working as Rawat's 'agent', and has asked for his resignation. The BJP also claims that since a no-confidence motion has been moved against the Speaker by 35 MLAs, he cannot serve notices to the rebel legislators.

Refuting their claim, Congress leader Manish Tewari said: "There is no such restraint on the Speaker, and he is well within his rights to do so."

'Come back home'

Sources claim the grand old party is trying to reach out to some of the rebels and convince them to return to the fold.

"We will welcome anyone who wants to come back. If a family member gets angry and leaves home in the morning, it doesn't mean that the family has abandoned him. And, even if they don't, we will prove our majority in the house," said state Congress president Kishore Upadhyay.

Cong cracks whip on rebel leader Bahuguna, suspends son Saket for 6 yrs for 'anti-party activities'

Sources claim that some of the rebels have been hinting at the possibility of reconciling with the party leadership. "They were not so much against the Congress as they were against Rawat. Now they have realised that they could be expelled from the Assembly before the vote of confidence, which has made them jittery," said a senior party leader.

Another leader claimed that Kunwar Pranav Singh Champion, Shailendra Mohan Singhal, Umesh Sharma and Pradeep Batra are being convinced to return to the Congress fold. "We are warning them that expulsion could mean political suicide for them," he said.

Also read - Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat ready to resign if Congress can't prove majority; Randeep Surjewala slams PM Modi, Amit Shah

Cracking the whip

Meanwhile, the state Congress leadership has cracked the whip on Vijay Bahuguna's son Saket Bahuguna and party joint secretary Anil Gupta for 'anti-party activities' and expelled them from the party for six years.

Bahuguna senior, the former Chief Minister, is at the head of the revolt, along with state agriculture minister Harak Singh Rawat.

The BJP has already claimed majority with the support of these nine MLAs, and staked its claim to form the government. The rebels moved to Delhi on a chartered plane and have been camping in the capital since then.

More in Catch - Can rebel leader Kalikho Pul hold the Arunachal government together?

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Cong summons Manipur CM & party chief after 25 MLAs turn dissident

Akash Bisht

Akash Bisht @akashbisht